‘A Wild and Ardent Faith’: Testing Oppositions in the Post-‘Mutiny’ Discourse

  • Alex Padamsee


In post-‘Mutiny’ British colonial discourse the Indo-Muslim ‘stranger’ came to pose an irresistible and insoluble problem in legibility. To approach this figure was, for the British writer, to risk the dissolution of a highly unstable official colonialist identity; and yet in 1857 he had become its most important point of reference. As I will now discuss with reference to the later published writings of Alfred Lyall, W W Hunter’s Indian Musalmans (1871), and the debate on the ‘Wahabi’ ‘panics’ of the 1860s, the visibility of the Indo-Muslim ‘stranger’ in colonialist rhetoric during this period narrates the desired invisibility of the rapidly changing and increasingly intrusive, post-‘Mutiny’ colonial state.1 His persistent illegibility, on the other hand, traumatically exposes the founding colonialist paradox of being at once a legislator of, and an actor within, the theatre of colonial neutrality. The result, I will argue, is a relentless process of descriptive segregation, the invariable fate of all ‘strangers’ in collective imaginings.


Chinese Government Asiatic Study Indian Society Indian Context Colonial State 
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  1. 14.
    The following discussion is based largely on B Metcalf, Deoband, pp. 46–71. But see also, Aziz Ahmad, Studies in Islamic Culture in the Indian Environment (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1969), pp. 201–18; and Pearson, Islamic Reform.Google Scholar
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© Alex Padamsee 2005

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  • Alex Padamsee

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